While I was at the RT Booklovers Convention, I had the amazing opportunity to talk with Vicki Pettersson, author of the Signs of the Zodiac series. On May 25th, I posted a part of our conversation; today, here’s the rest. If you haven’t already picked up Vicki’s fifth Zodiac novel, Cheat the Grave (click here for Jennifer’s review) – why not?!
Joanna Archer is working hard to put the painful events of her recent past behind, doing her best to embrace mortality after being superhuman.
But when she is stalked by a madman, she is forced to dive back into Vegas’ underworld to piece together shocking discoveries about the mother who abandoned her, the lover who betrayed her, and the daughter who will follow in her footsteps. But in order to win back all those things, she must face off against a death-dealer who carries his soul in a blade… one that’s screaming her name.
Vicki Pettersson: …because each book is meant to stand alone, but again her character development is so drastic from the first book to the fifth that…
Literary Escapism: drastic in a good way or a bad way?
Vicki Pettersson:…I think it’s good. I’m pushing her so hard, she doesn’t stay the same. She’s not like Stephanie Plum, who is the same in every single book. I love Stephanie Plum, but I want to explore a person and I want to watch them grow. It’s almost like a science experiment – drop them in each situation, see what their reactions is, and just take notes.
Literary Escapism: Are you a comic book fan, is that why you gave them such a prominent role?
Vicki Pettersson: That was organic too. I approached it from Joanna’s POV, a sole woman walking into this world, and started exploring it with her. I’ve read comics, but I became more interested and passionate about them through her. I then found myself wanting to increase those scenes so I would have an excuse to go into the comic shops more.
Literary Escapism: Have you found a favorite series?
Vicki Pettersson: Yes, and unsurprising it’s dark and morbid. I love Bill Williams, I love his Fables stuff; but my favorite is Joe Hill. He does Lock and Key for IDW and I just love Joe Hill anyway because he’s so dark, twisted, freaky, and scary, but these comic books just shock me. Every page I open just shocks me. They are so intelligence and so clever. I’ve read some others, but that by far is my favorite.
Literary Escapism: Has there been any thought about putting this series in comic book form?
Vicki Pettersson: Talks, yeah. It would be a natural and a lot of people are doing that right now – moving from urban fantasy to comics.
Literary Escapism: It seems like this series would…
Vicki Pettersson: …lend itself…
Literary Escapism: …very easily.
Vicki Pettersson: There would have to be some new story lines and all that too.
Literary Escapism: So you wouldn’t redo Scent of Shadows and make that a comic book, but would try something new?
Vicki Pettersson: If you’re looking at it from a business standpoint, the comic book people would want to draw a readership from the prose audience, from people who read the series and want to get more of the story. If it’s the same story, then they’ll be less likely to buy it. I’m thinking of Jim Butcher and his comics, he’s doing new story lines for each of them. He’s not recycling the Harry Dresden series.
Literary Escapism: Thinking of YA, everyone is doing YA now it seems like. You’re on your sixth book now, have you thought of starting a new YA series?
Vicki Pettersson: I’ve been approached a couple of times but I think it’s a little disingenuous to follow something just because it’s hot. I do have a natural lead in if I wanted to do something within this series with Joanna’s daughter. But if I’m going to live with characters for a very long time – because I do only write one book a year – then I need to be passionate about them, and I have not felt that for a story or that genre yet.
Literary Escapism: So fans don’t have to worry, Joanna will be around for a while yet?
Vicki Pettersson: For a while yet, with the caveat that because I am pushing her so hard, I don’t know how much she can take. Two things are going to happen. She’s either going to push back and say “Enough!” or she’s going to get a happy ending. Some sort of off into the sunset sort of deal, like she needs to go over to the Valhalla Spa and rest. So I do not see this being twelve books, open-ended. It’s going to end… it has to. I have a lot of action in each book – at least I try to have interesting things coming at you quickly – and that’s another reason why she might be getting a little burned out. So I don’t want to dilute that just for the sake of extending the series or getting another contract.
Literary Escapism: If you were offered to extend the series, could you focus on another one of the zodiac characters? For instance, books one through eight are about Joanna, but then nine through whatever could be about…
Vicki Pettersson: I suppose I could, but the way that I’ve written it in Cheat the Grave, I’m blowing things up.
Literary Escapism: So everyone is tied together pretty closely?
Vicki Pettersson: Yeah, and I’m turning everything on its head.
Literary Escapism: You’re getting to destroy everything, just to build it up again.
Vicki Pettersson: Just like her.
Literary Escapism: For someone who isn’t caught up with the series, can you introduce your changelings to us? What makes your changelings differ from other stories involving them? Are the changelings going to have a more prominent role in the series or are they only here for a short time?
Vicki Pettersson: I always have to have something new and supernaturally shiny to play with, but it’s all organic. It grows out of character. So the characters come first, the comic book shop comes first, Joanna comes first, this man comes first who is just a crazy man in the desert who says he’s a superhero, and then it all eventually becomes something else. Same with the Changelings.
Literary Escapism: For those who have not read your series, your changelings, are they shapeshifters or are they changelings like fairies left on the hill?
Vicki Pettersson: I appropriated the term, but they are shapeshifters of a sort. They are a safe zone in my world. If you’re in the city and you happened to not be near your own sanctuary, you can go into a safe zone and everyone can take a breather. Even if there are Shadows in there, they can’t touch you. The comic book shop is a safe zone, and in order to ensure there isn’t any fighting going around the innocent, young children, some of them have the ability to turn into protectors, of sorts. People love the changelings. But when I was imagining and creating them as these supernatural-like entities, I was thinking ‘No one is going to fall for this,’ because it’s so far out there. It’s crazy, yet people react to it.
As far as their powers or their place in the supernatural world, they literally can thin out, like a gumbi sort of width and substance, and you can see through them. When you see through them, you see who the person really is. When a changeling stands in front of Joanna, they don’t see Olivia anymore, they see her true form. When they stand in front of Joaquin, they see a rotten skull because he is so far gone, he is such a Shadow that he has…
Literary Escapism: …lost his inner self…
Vicki Pettersson: …he has lost all humanity. So he is essentially the walking dead, and that’s what’s revealed.
Literary Escapism: Jennifer wants to know if the changelings are going to come back. If there is more focused or something?
Vicki Pettersson: Yeah, they do pop up again. I have all these elements that I can pull back into the world as I need and so I pull them in and out as needed.
Literary Escapism: That actually works since you won’t see the same things in every book. When they do pop up…
Vicki Pettersson: …it’s like seeing an old friend.
Literary Escapism: Exactly! It makes it more interesting, then you don’t have to worry about the whole recycled feeling.
Vicki Pettersson: Again, you have something invested in those characters. If you’ve only read Cheat the Grave, it’s my job to make you know why these people are so special. Whereas some people have been reading them from Taste of Night are like “Yeah, they’re back!”
Vicki Pettersson: I wouldn’t. I am creating them as stand-alones, but the world is so much richer if you start from the beginning. I don’t know why you wouldn’t, I always have to read from beginning to the end, but there are some people who will even read the back of the book first to see if they like how the book ends before they invest the time to read it.
Literary Escapism: If you had your own tulpa, what would it be?
Vicki Pettersson: My own tulpa? Do you know what would be cool would be to have this little kid tulpa. This little tiny tulpa that is really powerful but they come in cute packaging.
Literary Escapism: You never question a cute kid.
Vicki Pettersson: Exactly. Have you see Kick Ass yet?
Literary Escapism: No I haven’t.
Vicki Pettersson: That’s it, my tulpa would be like the girl in Kick Ass.
Literary Escapism: How do you separate your real life from your imaginary world? Do you ever go in and see if there are Light/Shadow while you’re walking in Vegas?
Vicki Pettersson: Yeah, I go strolling for locations. You’re always living with your other world. I can not remember what it’s like to live in one world at a time. I can not remember not to have it bubbling beneath the surface. I’m always asking myself questions about what Joanna would do in this situation, or should I use this location? You can’t ever turn it off.
Literary Escapism: It’s Vegas…have you ever seen anything weird that has ended up in one of your books?
Vicki Pettersson: Weird that’s ended up in a book?
Literary Escapism: Anything like “only in Vegas you would see something like that”…something weird, bizarre?
Vicki Pettersson: Yes, in Taste of Night, where they go to the Swinger’s Ball, where Olivia, Suzanne, and Cher – the anti-friends – all have to dress up and go to this Swinger’s Ball. I was working at a hotel in Vegas during a convention and instead of name badges, they had these different color wrist bands – red meant girls only, blue meant boys only and green meant anything goes. They were all hanging out at the bar to see if they wanted to hook up.
I love to play with stuff like that.
Literary Escapism: Only in Vegas sometimes.
Vicki Pettersson: That’s what I do, I play with the series. I give people the real Vegas, obviously it’s a fantasy world, but people like the dark and the gritty, places they haven’t really heard of and a side they haven’t seen, but still places that are recognizable and that are fun.
Believe it or not, Las Vegas is the one thing that gets more comments in my books than anything else because everyone knows it, they all have their own ideas about what it is. I treat it like a character. I want the city to feel like a character as well.
Literary Escapism: I can’t see Vegas not being a character. *grin*
Vicki Pettersson: I’m not saying what kind of character, but it’s definitely a character in my series so I like to infuse every book with some sense of Vegas. I want to write things that you would think only happen in Vegas. I want the tone to be “this is a Vegas book” as opposed to the type where you could pull everything out and just stick in a different urban setting. That’s where the casinos and the Boneyard comes into play. I want it to be uniquely Vegas. I’m in love with my city.
Want to purchase Vicki’s novels?
Signs of the Zodiac:
- The Scent of Shadows at Amazon or the Book Depository
- The Taste of Night at Amazon or the Book Depository
- The Touch of Twilight at Amazon or the Book Depository
- City of Souls at Amazon or the Book Depository
- Cheat the Grave at Amazon or the Book Depository
- Holidays are Hell at Amazon or the Book Depository
- Unbound at Amazon or the Book Depository
- Dark and Stormy Knights at Amazon or the Book Depository
Contest Time! Vicki is graciously offering to give away a copy of Cheat the Grave and City of Souls – to two lucky winners. All you have to do is answer this question: What other cities are quite the character? What part of Vegas do you enjoy seeing? When you leave your answer, let me know if you have a preference.
As always, there’s more ways of getting your name in the hat (remember, these aren’t mandatory to enter, just extra entries):
- +1 for each place you post about today’s contest on your blog, social network, or anywhere you can. Digg it, stumble it, twit it, share it with the world. Wherever you share it, make sure you add a link to it along with your answer.
- +1 to any review you comment on, however, comments must be meaningful. Just give me the title of the review and I’ll be able to figure it out from there.
- +1 If you are a follower of Literary Escapism on Facebook and/or Twitter
- +10 Purchase any of Vicki’s novels through LE’s Amazon store or through the Book Depository sometime during this contest and send a copy of the receipt VIA email for your purchase to: jackie AT literaryescapism DOT com. Each purchase is worth ten entries.
There is one thing I am adding to my contests now…the winner must post a review of the novel someplace. Whether it is on their own blog, Amazon, GoodReads, LibraryThing or wherever, it doesn’t matter. Just help get the word out.
I have not been contacting winners, so you will need to check back to see if you’ve won.